Global index provider MSCI Barra has announced the launch of the MSCI Asia-Pacific Hedge Fund OPTIX Index, a new investable hedge fund index designed to reflect the overall structure and composition of the Asia-Pacific hedge fund universe.

The index has been licensed to Natixis Alternative Investments (NAI), and will be the basis of index-linked financial products such as funds, derivatives and structured products in a region where demand for alternative investments has been growing sharply. Hedge Fund Research estimates that assets of Asian hedge funds rose 38% to $111 billion in 2007. Global hedge fund assets are estimated at $2 trillion.

The calculation of the index is due to begin in March 2008, and it is expected to launch with around 20 constituent funds. The index will be made up of a diverse sample of hedge fund strategies focused on the Asia-Pacific region and will contain funds that have at least monthly liquidity.

Index constituents will be selected from the NAI hedge fund platform where the day-to-day investment management of the funds is performed by external hedge fund managers. The index will be made up of only funds open to new subscriptions.

NAI, working with SPARX International (Hong Kong), will be responsible for selecting and conducting due diligence on the hedge fund managers. NAI will also monitor the investment mandate of each managed fund.

Henry Fernandez, chairman and CEO of MSCI Barra, says the impending launch of the MSCI Asia-Pacific Hedge Fund OPTIX Index is in response to investor demand for a liquid and representative investable hedge fund index that covers the region.

ôThe expansion of investable hedge fund indices to cover the Asia-Pacific marketplace is a natural evolution that investors are seeking,ö says NAI CEO Sophie Souliac Deschamps.

MSCI Barra calculates over 100,000 equity, Reit and hedge fund indices daily. The firm estimates that around $3 trillion in assets are benchmarked against all of its indices worldwide. MSCI, before merging with Barra, launched its first MSCI Hedge Fund Index series in 2002.